Animal agriculture is an extremely cruel, inefficient, and resource-intensive way to produce food for the growing human population.
It pollutes our environment while consuming huge quantities of water, grain, petroleum, and pesticides. It also subjects animals to extreme confinement, mutilations without painkillers, and ruthless slaughter.
But industrial animal farms aren’t just awful for animals and the planet; they’re also a serious public health and environmental justice issue for nearby communities.
People living near factory farms have complained that farmers spray feces and urine into the air to "dispose of" the waste.
The Natural Resources Defense Council states:
People who live near or work at factory farms breathe in hundreds of gases, which are formed as manure decomposes. For instance, one gas released by the lagoons, hydrogen sulfide, is dangerous even at low levels. Its effects—which are irreversible—range from sore throat to seizures, comas and even death.
More often than not, these facilities are built near low-income communities and communities of color.
Last summer the Environmental Working Group released a collection of maps and data revealing that the environmental cost of North Carolina’s 6,500 factory farms disproportionately affects vulnerable communities.
Civil Eats explains:
The maps make clear that the highest density of CAFOs exists in low-income communities of color. Duplin and Sampson counties, where 28 to 29 percent of residents live in poverty and a high proportion of residents are Black or Latino, host not only the largest numbers of CAFOs in North Carolina, but in the entire country. The 4.5 million hogs between the two counties produce 4 billion gallons of wet waste a year, which makes up 40 percent of the state total.
But this isn’t anything new.
In 2015, 500 residents in eastern North Carolina filed suit against the pork production arm of Smithfield Foods, which they claim has subjected them to nearly unlivable conditions.
In 2014, a coalition of environmental organizations filed a complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Civil Rights, arguing that North Carolina’s lax regulations for disposing of hog waste discriminate against communities of color.
In 2005, the Iowa Policy Project found that the highest-poverty areas in North Carolina had more than seven times as many hog farms as affluent communities. And communities of color had five times as many hog farms as predominately white areas.
A study published in 2002 in the peer-reviewed Environmental Health Perspectives journal examined 67 factory farms in Mississippi and found that the majority were located in low-income areas and areas with a high percentage of Black Americans.
While the grave consequences of factory farming are vast, we all have the power to create a better world every time we sit down to eat.
By choosing delicious vegan foods, we can stand up for vulnerable communities who suffer discrimination, spare countless animals a lifetime of misery, and stop wasting resources.
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